Juventus boss Conte defends Pogba performance against Fiorentina

The France international was criticized for a lack of effort against the Viola in Turin but the Bianconeri boss felt the midfielder was "excellent"

Antonio Conte has rubbished the suggestion that he should be concerned by the performance of Paul Pogba in Sunday's Serie A win over Fiorentina.

The France international was criticized for turning in an allegedly lethargic and disinterested display against the Viola in Turin, much to the bemusement of the Bianconeri boss.

“Paul’s in good shape and I think he put in an excellent performance on Sunday," Conte told reporters on Wednesday.

"But let’s not forget that he’s a 20-year-old lad who has played a great deal. He featured in the Under-20 World Cup in the summer and only had 15 days off.

"But he’s a young guy and has no problems in covering the yards."

Juve faces Fiorentina again on Thursday in the first leg of a mouthwatering Europa League last-16 tie.

Conte is hopeful of having a full squad at his disposal, but admits that he retains some doubts over the availability of star striker Carlos Tevez.

"Carlos has experienced an inflamed patellar tendon, which we’ve been managing in training since last week," the former Italy international explained.

"We’ll see how he is today [Wednesday] and make our required assessments."

Conte added, though: “It’s inevitable that I’ll be making some changes with so many games coming up in a short space of time. 

Conte knows that Juve will again have its work cut out getting the better of Fiorentina, which currently sits fourth in Serie A yet retains little hope of catching third-place Napoli in the race for a Champions League place.

“We’ll be up against a fierce Fiorentina side who will want to go through," the ex-midfielder acknowledged.

"Their domestic situation means they’ll be focusing all their efforts exclusively on these two games.

"The Europa League is a wonderful competition and, although it won’t be easy, going all the way would be very important for our development as a group.

"It would give added international experience to a group that, aside from a few players, possesses very little on the European stage.”